I had a choice to make.
I arrived into Belgrade at 5pm and had a connecting flight at 7am the following morning. While a hotel may seem 100% logical during a 14-hour layover, three factors worked against it. One, time. I’d lose 45 minutes going to the hotel and 45 minutes coming back. Two, money. I’m cheap when traveling alone. That mindset allows guilt-free splurging when traveling with my family. Three, I had work to accomplish. A lot of it. Better not to even be tempted by a bed when I could sleep during my 10hr flight to New York and arrive back in the States refreshed and jet-lag free.
So turning down a hotel was not an easy choice, but the right choice for me. I can still do all-nighters with relative ease provided I can rest the next day.
After arriving from London, I stopped by the transit counter for my boarding pass to New York (remember why I booked it on two separate reservations). The agent asked me if I was going to “stay here” or “get hotel” and I said I would remain.
Down the hall I found the Air Serbia Premium Lounge and entered. A man in front of me was trying to sweet talk his way in, but was denied and left embarrassed. I handed an agent at the front desk both of my boarding passes. Upon examination, a curious look spread over her space and she asked me, “You’re not traveling until tomorrow?”.
Correct, I stated. She fetched a supervisor, explained the situation in Serbian, and then the supervisor said, “Sir, you cannot come to this lounge now. Too long a visit.”
I was visibly taken aback.
“What do you mean too long? It’s just until my next flight.”
“Yes, but this is not an overnight lounge.”
“Do you close at night?”
“No, but it is not for sleeping.”
“I just need to work, not sleep.”
“I’m sorry sir, come back before your flight.”
“What time should that be?”
“Maybe a few hours before.”
A puzzled look spread across my face and perhaps realizing the foolishness of her made-up rule or just deciding it wasn’t worth it, the agent said, “Well, okay you can stay. But you cannot take your shoes off. And you cannot lay across the couch.”
“I’m not planning to take my shoes off. I just need to work. I won’t even eat anything if you don’t want me to.”
“Of course you can eat something sir. You are most welcome here. We just want to make sure this is not a sleeping lounge.”
I nodded in agreement. She escorted me to a couch in the back of the lounge and told me not to hesitate to contact her if I needed anything.
I don’t know what that was about, but it ended well. Furthermore, I understand that most connecting passengers are not going to spend the night in the lounge. Perhaps I was the first one.
Irony of ironies? When the night shift came on, the agent assigned to watch over me brought over a pillow and blanket and invited me to lay down on the couch and “sleep for awhile”…
I did not sleep. Next up: a review of the lounge itself.